Turns out the new Ground Zero is south of Stockton in Merced.
We had our guest speaker point that out in class Thursday – class being my fourth period broadcasting class at McNair High School.
Mr. Imran Poladi got to the classroom just as my students finished setting up lights, mikes, cameras and re-arranging the desks for a press conference. It was their first time and turned out to be his first time too at an event like this.
Fist the ground rules. Generally, a press conference is held for the purpose of giving information to and answering questions from a number of reporters at the same time. Organization and agency press conferences are pretty calm – very much unlike the feeding frenzy you will see at breaking events.
There are recognized protocols. The speaker introduces themself or is introduced by someone (press officer, local person). Usually the most senior reporter or reporter with the most expertise in the area begins the questioning. This usually sets the tone for the conference. Others then either raise their hands or call out to be recognized.
In this case I had a wireless stick mike which was passed to each person so that their question could be clearly recorded (after all I am keeping track of quantity and quality of questions for grading, as well as wanting this recorded for student stories).
I explained to Mr. Poladi that he could recognize and call on students to ask questions. You might think that the person running the conference could control the line of questioning this way -and in some cases this might be the case. But reporters are a tenacious lot and like bulldogs, they will not let their victim walk away until they have an answer. Trust me, it is best to answer the questions and get it over with.
That said, the press conference went well. I imported all of the video to computer last night and need to switch out the on-camera questions into the main tape with Mr. Poladi so students can view and choose which segments they will use in their stories.
Visited the counseling department at McNair Friday morning and (as with the real news world), had to make some changes. Apparently the counseling staff has been hammered by potential budget cuts, cuts due to loss of students, and having to counsel kids whose families are evaporating and they had to politely decline speaking to my class due to fears they would break down and cry on camera. Wow.
So when class started up on Friday afternoon, I explained the changes to the students, and then read the notes I took for them in lieu of them asking questions directly to the counselors. Several students kept questioning me about why the counselors were not there…and I had to keep repeating that it might be too traumatic for them to speak. Fortunately former KOVR reporter Craig Prosser was our guest that day, and he explained they were not refusing to talk – something that officials or politicians might do if they didn’t want to deal with the press. This would be more akin to a distraught family member declining to speak after a family tragedy.
Craig picked it up for the rest of the period, talking about how he might go about setting up a story like our Ground Zero story….find some way to personalize it, find an official, make sure you get both sides and the necessary B-roll to cover the story.
We reminisced about our days together and showed some of his old stories and then I left him to the advanced students to go to the back of the studio to work on studio lighting with the beginning students.
So this is where Ground Zero stands right now:
We have an hour long press conference with the president of the Stockton Realtors Association (Imran Poladi).
We have about a half page of notes from the counseling department on how many students have left the school due to losing their homes (60-80 so far this year), and how many staff/counselors might lose their jobs because of the decline in student numbers (6-8 teachers/maybe 2 counselors). We have quotes from a counselor about the traumatic effect this issue has on student ability to focus on day-to-day school issues and long term issues such as college planning.
They have a good overview of how a story is planned and put together from a veteran reporter.
Next week, along with their studio talk show assignments being taped, they have to interview students on campus about their knowledge of the Ground Zero issue as well as how it affects them directly or indirectly.
Oh yeah. And we lose two days of class time to STAR testing. Looks like another sliding deadline…